“For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

— Luke 14:11

HUMILITY

Bob showed up at my door to fix a few things around the house. After many weeks of trying to make an appointment, Bob had been able to fit me into his very busy schedule. What I noticed quickly was his humility. A quiet man of Mohawk heritage, he lived among us without fame, but he was sought after. He looked at my work, took pictures, and was remarkably thorough with his inspection. As our visit wore on and he got comfortable with my openness, he told me about his heritage. The heritage of being one of the very few Native Americans who lived in a mostly white community. A heritage where he and his brothers served their country. A heritage that made it hard for him to understand why they had to run a gas pipeline through a besieged group of people in South Dakota. Not judgmental, but seeking answers.

“He always paid him more than what he had assumed he would, because Bob was good at his craft and humble in his requests.”

Bob worked most days for fourteen hours. As I said, he was highly sought after. His request for payment was always “Pay for my materials and whatever else you think I am worth.” The friend who referred him to me, Chris, explained that this was Bob’s way. He always paid him more than what he had assumed he would, because Bob was good at his craft and humble in his requests. I am sure this unusual way of billing exposed him to being taken advantage of by others. But I am also sure that his humility and high quality of work inspired others to overpay. Bob is humble, thorough, and busy.

“When we humble ourselves, we invite God’s recognition of our humanity.”

In today’s verse Jesus makes an important life statement. He instructs us to be careful with how we view ourselves. To not make our successes higher than they are and to be humble in who we are. My friend Dick explains it by saying, “It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.” Jesus also issues a warning, that when we act higher than others, we invite downfall. When we humble ourselves, we invite God’s recognition of our humanity.

“Hubris is an untrustworthy companion, Humility can be trusted.”

Many times in my own career, after I had achieved a great success, I believed I was better than I was. Almost immediately these thoughts of greatness were erased by a calamity. In my youth I didn’t tie in the connection as well as I would later in life. But this pattern was consistent. It took me  many years to realize that my success was the result of others and God. Later in life I would make the sign of the cross on my chest to thank God for recent successes and acknowledge others for their help. Hubris is an untrustworthy companion, humility can be trusted.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How do we act when we succeed?

Do we take the time to recognize others and God for our successes?

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

— Luke 14:34–35

SALT AND HONOR

When my daughter was a sophomore in college, Wells Fargo gave her a credit card. She had no income, other than what her parents sent her as an allowance. Not knowing that the credit card existed, I was surprised to receive the bill. When I asked my daughter the circumstances, she told me she had been pre-approved, and when she went to the local branch, they gave her the credit card. How did they do their income check? How did they know if she could pay them back? They didn’t, and my daughter had just learned a hard lesson. My question was, why would one of America’s largest banks be so sloppy?

“Wells Fargo had lost its saltiness and honor in the pursuit of profits at any cost.”

Wells Fargo had survived the great bank crisis of 2008, better than all the other banks. In fact, they needed no government help. This was largely attributable to their CEO, John Stumpf. His steady hand guided through and around all the pitfalls of bad lending practices in the early 2000’s. But in 2016 the bank was exposed as issuing bad credit cards to people who neither wanted them nor could afford them. Five thousand and three hundred people were fired. John Stumpf, the once great icon of responsible banking, lost his job as well. A lifetime’s impeccable reputation down the drain. Wells Fargo had lost its saltiness and honor in the pursuit of profits at any cost. A corporate culture emerged away from responsible business practices and toward treating customers like they were apples to be picked. After the news of the scandal broke, the bank’s stock fell very far.

“Jesus cautions us avoid those paths that take us away from our core value of honor.”

Jesus cautions us to retain our saltiness. Jesus cautions us avoid those paths that take us away from our core value of honor. To avoid giving in to a short-term solution that takes advantage of others. Ethically, Jesus tells us our actions will have consequences. These consequences can be severe. Severe enough that a lifetime of honorable work can be wiped out. Our honor and how we handle decisions is our salt.

“There will be times we have to let the other person win. But we will remain with our biggest asset, Our salt and our honor.”

Many of us face decisions like this every day in our work and daily life. Decisions that seem small but that, made without honor, can be disastrous. For most of us our reputation is our greatest asset. We don’t have large trust funds or a big inheritance. We earn our living based on who we are. Our honor is our salt. It is what makes us good. For all our decisions, our salt should come first. Surely there will be times when that means we lose a big sale or big client. There will be times we have to let the other person win. But we will remain with our biggest asset. Our salt and our honor.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What is our decision-making process, do we take our reputation into account?

How do we evaluate our next steps and does it include “fairplay”?

Whom do we admire that is admirable?

“What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like the mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches”

— Luke 13:18–19

THE MUSTARD SEED AND OUR DREAMS WITH OUR CAREERS

Many times our dreams exceed our capabilities and credentials. We find ourselves competing in places we know little about or with people who have résumés far superior to our own. How do we succeed? How do we rise above our limitations? The answer is simple; by believing in ourselves and by working harder and doing those things others won’t do.

Every interview ended with “You don’t have enough experience.”

One of my clients, Carolina, wanted to work in a very large professional firm in NYC. Every interview ended with “You don’t have enough experience.” While she had gone to a great school and gotten great grades, they were a little shy of what would get her in the door. Finally, she accepted an internship with a large professional firm, with the knowledge that she had less than a 20 percent chance of being hired.

She still had six weeks until the internship started. She wanted to give herself the best chance of earning a full time position, so she took the time to simulate her new job by taking self-directed courses that would improve her skills. She spent hours making sure she knew every answer to every question imaginable. She would study complicated legal documents until she understood them completely.

The other interns took the time off, and Carolina was constantly fighting the temptation to do the same, but she knew her dream. She worked hard and dug into issues she didn’t understand. She wanted to be able to start the first day ready to go.

“Using the image of the mustard seed, Jesus tells us that little things can have a big impact in achieving our dreams.”

In talking about the mustard seed, Jesus compares it to the Kingdom of God, how from a little thing, the smallest of all seeds, a great tree would emerge. Using the image of the mustard seed, Jesus tells us that little things can have a big impact in achieving our dreams. Little things like extra effort. Sure, the other person has more experience, and sure, the other person has a better résumé. But hard work that is focused on our dreams is like the mustard seed. It always grows.

“Hard work is the one defining thing that separates excellence from what is merely good.”

Hard work is the one defining thing that separates excellence from what is merely good. It is the one intangible we can control. We know our dreams, and they can be lofty. But being willing to do a little more can create a mighty career.

“The mustard seed of working hard allowed her to achieve her dreams.”

We know the end of this story well. It plays out in the movies all the time. The good person struggles, tries hard, and succeeds. It’s the journey of life and of the Kingdom of God. Carolina did get her job and excelled at it. The mustard seed of working hard allowed her to achieve her dreams.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

What are our dreams?

What stands in our way?

How do we overcome obstacles?

How is this like the Kingdom of God?

“Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

— Matthew 26:27–28

SECOND CHANCES

David Steward’s lowest point came when his car was repossessed from the parking lot of the company he owned. His business was $3.5 million in debt. Quite a fall for the person who at one time had been FedEx’s number one salesperson. David had left FedEx a few years earlier to start his own business called World Wide Technologies. And here he was with no car, a failing business, and a dark future.

An African-American, David grew up in a heavily segregated part of Missouri. Through sheer will and determination he went on to college. He found his way onto the school’s basketball team, in spite of his high school coach saying he wasn’t cut out for basketball. When he graduated, he sent out over four hundred résumés before landing a job. He had spent most of his life overcoming obstacles others had put in front of him.

And here he was in one of life’s most difficult spots. He had fought hard to get ahead and now it was all crumbling around him. Through prayer and by turning to the Lord, he discovered he had made one mistake during his miraculous life. After leading a life that rose above his circumstances, he had built his business on a bad foundation. He viewed his customers, vendors, and employees as instruments for his success. They were there to serve him. In effect he had begun chasing net worth and not self-worth.

“Through prayer he asked for a second chance.”

Through prayer he asked for a second chance. He changed his life and business model to one of serving his customers, employees, and vendors. He changed his businesses purpose to one of providing great service. Almost overnight his business changed. Today it is one of the largest privately held businesses in America.

“We have all been given a second chance.”

In one of Jesus’s final times with the twelve, he reveals his purpose. At the Last Supper he tells them that he has come to forgive their sins and ours, through his death and resurrection. We have all been given a second chance.

But there is more to this story. While we have been given a second chance, if we continue to make the same mistakes we will still end up in the same place, requiring forgiveness again. Change on our part is required to lead a different life. Perhaps a breaking of old habits or an acceptance of a new course in life.

Many people confuse the meaning of the word “repentance.” Repentance isn’t just admitting to ourselves and Jesus that we were wrong. It also means we are sincerely willing to change.

Repentance in Greek means just that: “a sincere desire to change.” Through this genuine desire to change, the gift of forgiveness becomes real.

Through prayer, David acknowledged that he needed to change. Instead of thinking internally about himself, he had to learn to think about others first. He had to become external with others, putting them first. His focus became self-worth and not net worth.

Forgiveness is the gift of a second chance, but it’s only valuable when we change.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

How hard is it to change and admit we need a new direction?

What prevents us from changing: pride, habit, or letting go?

Where do we need change in our lives to make forgiveness become real?